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Wednesday, January 1, 2020

My Top 10 Favorite TV Shows of 2019

As if there weren't already too many shows to watch, 2019 saw the release of two brand new streaming services: Apple+ and Disney+. Even if you wanted to watch everything, how could you afford it? The diversity of shows is apparent on my list, I have six different channels/streaming services represented, but I am now at the point where I retreat to my favorite and what I enjoy. There might be quote unquote "better" shows out there, but this list represents the 10 shows that gives me the most pleasure.

10) Watchmen (HBO)
Season: 1
Created By: Damon Lindelof
Starring: Regina King, Jean Smart & Jeremy Irons

Why It's Great: This might be blasphemous to put into writing and have anyone on The Internet have the ability to read it, but I really liked the 2009 Zach Snyder film Watchmen, and I enjoyed the Snyder Cut with an additional 24 minutes even more. I also never read the original Alan Moore comic book either. (What a fun way to start off this list, huh?!). Damon Lindelof did what I expect to this recycled IP, nostalgia culture: he made something wholly new and original, created and explored new and ambitious themes, added in his own unique personality and vision, all while being true to the original work. So sure, at the end we got a whole lot of Dr. Manhattan, and Laurie Blake, and Adrian Veidt, but we also got a show where Regina King's character takes some pills and gets to basically reenact her grandfather becoming the first superhero in America.

9) The Righteous Gemstones (HBO)
Season: 1
Created By: Danny McBride
Starring: Danny McBride, Adam Devine & John Goodman

Why It's Great: Normally, I am not the biggest Danny McBride fan. I liked the first season of Eastbound and Down, but couldn't get far past that, and I couldn't get past the pilot episode of Vice Principals, but for some reason, The Righteous Gemstones got hooked. I know a lot of people think this show was a fun parody of MegaChurch culture, but I always found it more singular. I never felt like it was an examination of the culture as a whole, but of these bad people, many of them hypocrites. As we got to know these particular characters, we were treated with humor and delight. Plus, an awesome video of Jennifer Nettles and TV Legend Walton Goggins singing about Misbeahvin'.

8) I'm Sorry (TruTV)
Season: 2
Created By: Andrea Savage
Starring: Andrea Savage & Tom Everett Scott

Why It's Great: If you're single, feel free to never watch an episode of this show. If you're married, and especially if you have a kid, I'm Sorry, is the show for you. It's like if creator and star Andrea Savage stuck into your house, recorded all of the conversations and arguments you had with your significant other, and then put them in a TV show.

7) The Boys (Amazon Prime)
Season 1
Created By: Eric Kripke, Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg
Starring: Karl Urban, Jack Quaid & Antony Starr

Why It's Great: Admittedly, I am a fan of Marvel movies. I'm not the type of guy to fly to San Diego to wait in long lines to see what Marvel has in store for the next decade, but with a small child, basically the only movies I see in the theaters any more are Marvel movies. And I do thoroughly enjoy them. Which is also why I love The Boys because it's such a brilliant satire of Marvel and superhero culture. In this world, the main supes (what superheroes are called in The Boys) are a Justice League/Avengers - esque team called The Seven, but are really run by a Disney-esque corporation, Vought, who has the best public relation team to not only convince the public that The Seven should be idolized (despite their narcissistic, negligent, and reckless ways), but also to make as much money off The Seven's image as possible. I enjoyed the journey of a rag-tag crew of normal people who are doing their best to expose The Seven for who they really are.

6) Stranger Things (Netflix)
Season: 3
Created By: The Duffer Brothers
Starring: Winona Rider, David Harbour & Millie Bobbie Brown

Why It's Great: Like Barry, below, remember how hard we were Concern Trolling Stranger Things after its excellent first season? And then the show went ahead and got better in its second season? And then its third season came out and the show went deeper even still and our four main kid protagonist got older and started drifting apart? In 2019, we were treated to same 80's Stephen King/ Steven Spielberg/ John Carpenter nostalgia love (and we got a war with the Russians and a mall as well!) yet for some reason I haven't seen Stranger Things on many Top 10 lists this year. The show is still good and a treat and it deserves our respect damn it!

5) The Good Place (NBC)
Season: 4
Created By: Michael Schur
Starring: Kristen Bell & Ted Danson

Why It's Great: The real reason The Good Place is great is because it manages to make philosophy lessons funny and entertaining. Michael Schur and his staff are brilliant and every episode of the show is a treat. But I wanted to take this time to discuss the gifted Kristen Bell. With this show and Veronica Mars also airing a new season in 2019, what does Bell need to do become an all-time great TV actress? She's the star of 3 great seasons of the cult classic and fan favorite original Veronica Mars run, she's very good in Showtime's House of Lies, and she's excellent in this legit hit for NBC. I just feel like we're not enjoying and respecting Kristen Bell while we have her the same way we did/are doing to Ted Danson.

4) Crashing (HBO)
Season 3
Created By: Pete Holmes
Starring: Pete Holmes, Madeline Wise & Jamie Lee

Why It's Great: Crashing is a show I've always enjoyed, I am a huge Pete Holmes fan in my own right, but I've never felt the need to put the show on a list before. In part because in the era of Peak TV, it was hard to justify putting it on a Top 10, even Top 20 list. But in a year where I seemingly fell into my Comfort Foods, and in a year which the show took itself to another level, placing Crashing in the Top 5 feels right. As the character Pete Holmes took his comedy to another level, finally earning the right to have a residency at the famous Comedy Store in New York, the show explored deeper into the character of why both the character and real life Pete Holmes does comedy. And as a bonus, the show also gave us one of the best episodes of 2019, "MC, Middle, Headliner".

3) Superstore (NBC)
Season 4b/5a
Created By: Justin Spitzer
Starring: America Ferrera, Ben Feldman & Mark McKinney

Why It's Great: When we think of great writers from The Office, we think of the greats like Michael Schur or Mindy Kaling. People who went on to become famous in their own right, and who were able to create their own beloved show. For some reason, we don't throw Justin Spitzer into this category of great Office writers. He wrote some of the shows best episodes like "Product Recall", "Did I Stutter?", and "Michael Scott Paper Company". This seems like a perfect metaphor for Superstore itself. A great show that is seemingly overlooked. I love this show, and its great in its own right, but it does not seem like its reviewed like the greats of The Office and Parks and Rec were. It's a damn shame.

2) GLOW (Netflix)
Season 3
Created By: Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch
Starring: Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin & Chris Lowell

Why It's Great: For a show I didn't particularly care for in its first season, GLOW has come a long way in my book. After setting up its premise and its relationships, GLOW's sophomore went deeper with its characters which made for a richer and more enjoyable season. GLOW doubled down on this formula which created its best season to date. These characters just existed. I know it is not a particularly good selling point, but for fans of the show, it made our investment in it worthwhile. You would think a move from being a weekly local TV show in Los Angeles to a stage show in Las Vegas would have the been the jolt the show needed to reinvigorate itself, but instead, it allowed the show to be more introspective. And I loved every minute it. Alison Brie continues to deliver one of the best performances on television, and I hope soon the Emmy's will take notice.

1) Barry (HBO)
Season: 2
Created By: Bill Hader & Alec Berg
Starring: Bill Hader, Sarah Goldberg & Henry Winkler

Why It's Great: Barry took all of our Concern Trolling and told us exactly where to put it. Season One was great, but it did seem like a difficult proposition to continue the story. Yet creators Bill Hader and Alec Berg managed to make its sophomore season better than its first. By asking the question, "Who am I?" and "Am I good person?", Barry was able to dig deeper, and just be better. The show also managed to marry the two world its titular character occupied, being a trained killer-for-hire and trying to be an actor, better. While Barry was digging deeper about himself, his acting class was asking itself the same thing by putting on a personal; one-act play about their most traumatic experience. The lies we tell each other about ourselves worked for everyone on the show and was the wonderful connective tissue that held the bonds of greatness together. Though I wasn't a fan of it's "buzzy" episode "ronny/lily", I loved everything else about it to make it my #1 favorite show of 2019.